Jesus and Sinners

Mark 2:13-17

Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:9; Luke 5:27-28

Still in Galilee, Jesus calls another disciple, and this time He has a questionable choice: Levi (Matthew) the tax collector. Tax collectors are none too popular in our day, but back then they were outright crooks in most cases. They would be informed of the amount they had to collect, and whatever they collected over and above that amount would be theirs to keep. Oh yes, this was all nice and legal under Roman law. So say you are a tax collector and you are supposed to collect $100.00 from 10 people. Let’s see, if you can get $10.00 from each one, you could turn the money over to the authorities and be done, but your family would go hungry. If you collected $ 12.50 each, you’d make $25.00 and maybe that would be fair, but if you could force them to pay $150.00 each, even better!

So, let’s see; where was I? Oh yes, they were unpopular indeed!

Jesus called Levi to discipleship, and then they go to a party with tax collectors and other unsavory characters: The stage is set for another round with His critics.

Notice that once again, Jesus called a disciple, and the disciple followed, leaving everything behind immediately to do so. In this case, Levi, who was well-to-do threw a dinner party for Jesus that night, inviting all of his friends. Jesus did not tell Levi that he had to attend class, do penance or somehow work his way into favor; Levi did not need to get his act together before he could follow Jesus, instead Jesus called, Levi obeyed.

Then, this dinner party!

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:15-17

I can well imagine, and even sympathize with the thinking of the Pharisees, after all most of us are quite used to this kind of thinking; Levi and his friends weren’t “suitable” people at all; they were at the very bottom of the social order.  Yet Jesus came that such as these could be saved; in our day, these are exactly the ones who need to hear about Jesus.

Here’s a question: If you and I don’t reach out to “tax collectors and prostitutes” with the message of Christ, then who will; the Pharisees? From this text, it would seem that Pharisees are not likely to get the job done.


Jesus Meets His Critics

Mark 2:1-12

Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:2-8; Luke 5:17-26

In this passage, Jesus has returned to Capernaum from His Kingdom Tour, and the people are excited to have Him back in town. During this period, Capernaum is His ‘home base’. As the crowd grew with the usual curious listeners, sick and damaged people, it became impossible for everyone to gain entry into the house where Jesus was staying as He preached, and a very enterprising group of men climbed up to the roof, bringing a paralyzed man on a stretcher with them. They opened the roof door which was a common feature in those flat-roofed houses, and lowered the paralyzed man into the room where Jesus was teaching.

When Jesus saw this, He went over to the man on the stretcher and told him that his sins were forgiven.

There was a group of teachers of the law in the room, who may have come from Jerusalem to investigate the report that had reached the city about the Kingdom Tour, and these guys were pretty amazed at what they saw. It occurred to them that Jesus had just made a mistake in telling the unfortunate man his sins were forgiven, because only God can forgive sins: Blasphemy… Gotcha!

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Mark 2:8-12

I love this part! Jesus, knowing their thoughts goes over to these guys and asks a question: So boys, what’s easier, to tell this guy his sins are forgiven, or to tell him to get up, pick up his mat and walk?

Who says Jesus had no sense of humor?

Then, He went back to the paralyzed man and told him to get up, take his mat and walk… and that’s just what the guy did!

I can just imagine what those old boys from Jerusalem thought then… hilarious! Boy, did they have a report for the bigwigs back home.

Of course everyone was amazed at what they had witnessed, but I wonder if they fully comprehended the scene. Right in front of the teachers of the law, Jesus had forgiven a man’s sins, the teachers were correct in what they were thinking, for only God can forgive sins. Jesus read their thoughts; a little miracle nobody seemed to notice, and went right for the jugular, so to speak. He told a paralyzed man to get up and walk, and the man was made whole again, and did just that. Thus, Jesus had taken upon Himself God’s role to forgive, and then backed it up by making the man whole physically.

Wholeness, spiritually and physically: Jesus removed the consequences of sin, at least symbolically , right in front of their eyes. To state what happened in another way, Jesus had just shown the whole crowd that He was the Son of God… and the teachers of the law, by definition if nothing else, would have had to know that.

So, what do you think was in their report to HQ?

The Kingdom is at Hand

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Mark 1:29-45

Healing People

Mark 1:29-34

Parallel Texts: Matt. 8:14-17; Luke 4:38-41

Galilee Touring

Mark 1:35-39

Parallel Texts: Matt. 4:23-25; Luke 4:42-44

Growing Crowds

Mark 1:40-45

Parallel Texts: Matt. 8:2-4; Luke 5:12-16


If Jesus were to make a tour like this today, a promoter might call it ‘The Kingdom Tour”.  Certainly His early ministry in Galilee was tumultuous, with ever-growing crowds of admirers, lines of the sick and lame, the demon possessed… and of course His critics.

More than anything else, Mark , with his brief glimpses of one incident after another, paints for us, a picture of the Kingdom Tour as it advances from one Galilean town to the next. With this somewhat disjointed picture, we start to see a pattern of sorts, images connected together by a theme. We know that the theme is “The Kingdom is at Hand” and the trends are that Jesus preaches the Kingdom, heals the sick and lame, drives out demons and crowds grow larger. They grow so large that Jesus can no longer enter the towns, but instead meets the people in the nearby countryside.

This Kingdom Jesus is preaching brings with it God’s righteousness, a new energetic life, forgiveness of sin and healing. There is something different going on here, nothing like this has swept through Galilee before; this has an other-worldliness about it. It is hard for any of us to reflect upon this period and see the Kingdom as a mere metaphor, or a simple abstract idea, no this is different. Think about the healing that is going on; not only is sickness being swept away in Jesus’ path, but so is infirmity and even death itself. It is as though this Jesus can undo the consequences of sin.

Yet, this isn’t the only healing that is being done right out in the open. Jesus is driving demons out of people! These unclean spirits that have taken over human lives are being given orders to cease and desist… and they know exactly who they are dealing with; Jesus is acting to prevent them from telling the people who He is; why? Where did these demons come from? Were they always there? I’ll post a Bonus Post about demon possession soon, but for now let’s just say that we can add spiritual cleansing to Kingdom activities in this amazing picture of the “Kingdom Tour.”

However you slice it, Jesus was making a splash, and He is attracting attention as the news of His tour reaches Jerusalem, where the authorities will want to find out just what is going on up there in Galilee, from whence nothing good ever comes, as the action moves into the second chapter tomorrow morning…

Jesus in the Synagogue

Mark 1:21-28

Parallel Text: Luke 4:31-37

Jesus went to the synagogue at Capernaum and taught there. Mark doesn’t tell us what He taught, just that He did teach; the exact content isn’t the issue in this text, the reaction of the people is the real message. The people were amazed not so much by His content, apparently, but at His manner.

I know a preacher who is more than capable of bringing a brilliant sermon to his group, but as he does so, it is obvious that he is uncomfortable, nervous and insecure.  By the time his people have finished their lunch, they have forgotten what he taught only an hour earlier. Other preachers I know present really weak content with confidence and an air of command that their groups recall and consider greatly inspiring. Jesus had both content and an air of confidence and authority; He really made an impact on the people and that was quite a contrast with what they were used to hearing.

Then there’s this guy…

The guy was possessed by an “impure spirit.” This impure spirit starts talking to Jesus:

“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

Mark 1:24

Now this is something you don’t see every day! Did you notice that the spirit is the only one in the place who knows who he’s talking to? Oh yes, they know exactly who Jesus is, and they tremble. They also know who indwells you and me, and they tremble!

Jesus responds to the spirit by telling it to be quiet and come out of the man…. and the spirit obeys; authority again.

Before this, the people were amazed, now they are beyond amazed:

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Mark 1:27-28

Take a moment and consider the reaction of the people. If you consider these words carefully, you should be more amazed than those people were. Jesus had just taught in the synagogue with authority. Then he was accosted by an impure spirit who recognized Jesus as the “Holy One of God” and Jesus told the spirit to shut up and get lost… and the spirit obeys, and the people say, “What is this? A new Teaching – and with authority!”

The people had heard Jesus teach, and they were impressed by His authority. Then they saw His authority confirmed in a way no one had ever seen before. They also heard the spirit tell exactly who Jesus was, but all they could comprehend was teaching and authority. Doesn’t this remind you of something common in our time?

“Jesus was a great moral teacher, but not the Son of God.”

There is a lesson for us to learn here: Never underestimate the capacity of human beings to miss the obvious. (You may quote me on that!)

Even so, the word spread about Jesus…

Mark Wastes No Time

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness

Mark 1:12-13

Parallel Texts: Matthew 4: 1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Jesus Returns to Galilee

Mark 1:14

Parallel Texts: Matthew 4:12; Luke 3:19-20; John 4:1-4

Jesus Teaches in Galilee

Mark 1:15

Parallel Texts: Matthew 4:17; Luke 4:14-15

Jesus Calls Disciples

Mark 1:16-20

Parallel Texts: Matthew 4:18-22; Luke 5:1-11

I don’t know if you’ve been reading the verses I’ve listed above, but if you have, you can see just how pithy this gospel is. See where Matthew and Luke are by the end of this, while Mark has only written a few verses for these incidents? Matthew is well into chapter 4 and Luke is well into chapter 5 while Mark is not halfway through chapter 1! I keep having to remind myself that I’m covering Mark, and not the life of Jesus, so tempted am I to fill in the blanks…

Mark does, however, give us something really interesting to sink our teeth into in verse 16 ff.

This is His first command to His disciples: “Follow me.” I always enjoy pointing out that His ministry begins in earnest with “Follow Me” and ends with “Go and make disciples”. In between these two commands Jesus makes disciples and saves the world. If you stop and think about that, you will surely gain wisdom, for you will be looking right directly at the eternal purpose of God.

Another interesting aspect to this story is that when Jesus walks up to these guys and says “Follow Me,” they actually drop everything and obey His command! What would I do if some 30-year-old kid walked up to me and said that? If I was in a really good mood I might say, “And you are… who exactly?”

These guys just dropped their nets and answered His call, and when you read that they dropped their nets, understand that those nets were their profession not their amusement. Jesus has called you and me to do a number of things. He’s called us to love one another; do we drop our nets and follow? He has called us to make disciples, do we drop our nets and follow? I’m sure you can see where this is headed, and no, we usually put up a bit of a fuss with Him when He calls us to do something.

Yes, even though Mark rushed through some things, there’s always a zinger lingering somewhere!

Jesus Appears on the Scene

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Mark 1:9-11

Parallel texts: Matthew 3:13-17;  Like 3:21-22

Mark continues the action, after having described briefly the ministry of John the Baptist, here comes Jesus down from Nazareth to be baptized by John. Since John was operating near Jerusalem, Jesus would have traveled about 80 miles on foot through some pretty rough terrain to join John at the Jordan. Mark doesn’t record the exchange between the two that Matthew describes, probably because it wouldn’t mean much to a Roman, but he does record the most important and significant aspects of this scene.

Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:10-11

First, you no doubt noted the words as Jesus “was coming up out of the water”. I point this out because it indicates that Jesus and John had been down in the water in the first place. As if the meaning of baptize (Greek baptiso “to immerse”) weren’t enough to indicate what is going on here, Mark describes a scene in which immersion has taken place in the river, and thus Jesus had to come up out of the water.

Next, Mark shows us an amazing scene. Jesus has just been baptized, and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him like a dove. you have seen other passages in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is described as being like fire, but here the Spirit is like a dove; gentle, harmless and peaceful. This makes perfect sense since Jesus’ ministry was not about condemnation or judgment, but rather it was a ministry of reconciliation, peace and love. I also like to point out that the Holy Spirit descended after He was baptized, just as the Holy Spirit is gifted to the Christian after baptism (Acts 2:38). Then, another amazing thing: The voice of the Father from heaven, announcing that Jesus is the Son for the first time.

Three times in the New Testament, the divine voice of the Father is heard. Here, at the transfiguration, and in Jesus’ last week in John 12:28. In this case, the Father not only announces that Jesus is His Son, but indicates that the Father is well-pleased with Jesus… why now?

Jesus has been baptized to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15) and it strikes me that this would imply an obedient act on Jesus’ part. The Father is pleased now when Jesus has been obedient. This is not to say that Jesus wasn’t pleasing in God’s sight before, but remember that Jesus has come to the earth do His Father’s will, and this act of obedience is an example to us of doing His will.

We should also note here, that in this scene are all three Persons of the Godhead: Father (voice from heaven), Son (Jesus coming up out of the water) and Holy Spirit (descending like a dove). You just don’t see a scene like this very often!

Here or at Don’s place

In his great post of earlier today, paulfg (Just Me Being Curious) commented on something I posted recently here on The Life Project, an idea that I’ve been kicking around to increase the level of community among Christian bloggers. In the original post, I mentioned that putting together a group of bloggers via Skype as a fellowship or accountability group or a small group study… or all of the above. Before I ended the post, I threw out an idea that came to me as I wrote: Anybody interests in a small study of MarK? And Susan Irene Fox spoke up with a “Yes” reply. In Paul’s post today, two others quickly said yes to being in a group conversation, and after seeing that, I thought it was time to send out a little invitation:
Hey everyone, do any of you skype?
Would any of you be interested in becoming part of a small group on skype, periodically for fellowship, conversation, Bible study, or…? (Suggestions very welcome).
Please consider yourself invited!
Let me know, either by leaving a comment or by email at: and please let me know your time zone.
By the way, if you have never used skype before, it is free, it is easy and all you need is a computer, internet connection, and an inexpensive web cam and microphone (mine together cost about $25 total.) I really hope to hear from you!
Here’s Paul’s post, in which he (an experienced skype user, tells about how much of a newbie I was the first few times he and I visited on skype; if I can do it, so can you!

Just me being curious

Blogging brought me a bunch of wonderful people. Blogging also extended my comfort zones hugely! Blogging has changed me. Because God makes no distinction, that I can see, where we gather in His name.

Church is still often “the building”, and “the services”, and “the congregation”, and the turning up and signing-in. Nothing wrong with that – unless it is the whole – not just part of this “relationship thing” – like in the “who is your relationship with?” thing.

Who is your relationship with? The familiar crowd on a Sunday you see through the week (or don’t)? The minister, pastor, cleric or collar? The routine, the habit, the locality? Where does “God and you” transport to other relationships, other communities, other formats and settings?

Blogging, for me, became community became skype fellowship. First one other blogger, then another, then a local minister, then some more bloggers. The odd thing I have…

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